I Love Brene & I Fight for Feelings!!

Okay I had a few folks ask me if I was trying to take a shot at Brene Brown in my last post.  I want to clarify.  I love her work.  So I am not out to poke, other than it is the nature of my style, which some call contrarian or Myers Briggs refers to as my need to question, that may present as challenging.  Truthfully, I find I only rise to the challenge when I have total and complete respect for the idea or more clearly stated, the person presenting it.

That said, I do struggle when a feeling is getting a bad rap.  Feelings to me are like the breath and blood of being human.  Babies are the best example of this fluid relationship that we should be having with our emotions.  Babies can be crying and screaming one minute and laughing seconds later.  Their little bodies shake and vibrate freely with each surge of emotion – energy-in-motion.  Most of us as adults are are not nearly so fluid or expressive, actually we are quite the opposite.  Somewhere along the way we dampened our emotional range.  Mostly to conform or fit in to the expected path of maturing by using the mind more than the heart.

I believe feelings, all feelings are vital to a healthy heart and aliveness.  We breath, we feel.  Why are feelings so often something we wish to get rid of.  I believe people spend more time trying to rid themselves of uncomfortable feelings, like anger, jealousy or shame – than time spent working on shifting mental patterns of self-hate to self-compassion.  I will say again – the feeling isn’t the problem.  Feelings pass.  Feelings are in the moment.  Yes, unpredictable and less stable.  Still, in the moment, timeless and immediate.  Our thinking, can be quite stable, predictable and in all honestly – deadly.  However, we don’t seem quite so quick to get rid of a negative thought – instead we believe it , fondle it and prove it, giving it a permanent track for messing with our immediate experience.

As humans we are quite proud of our neocortex, that thinking part of the brain.  It is amazing that we are a species that can imagine, innovate and tell a story forward.  It is a gift.  Yet without the breath and blood of feelings our story-telling and innovation comes without empathy or connection.

Think of our great minds like the land that we walk on, solid and relatively easy to navigate.  Now think of the oceans, the waters that take up even more of this wonderful planet, the mystery and flow they offer.  To me that is the difference between my feelings and my stories.  The stories are the islands that I can at times get trapped living on, solid, predictable but not always interconnected.  Feelings like the water will move me, shape me and provide the incredible depth that connects those islands and ensures oneness, not a separate state.

I seriously doubt Brene Brown, meant to get rid of a feeling.  I think she was really trying to find a path for re-connecting.  Shame for me is the water, the ocean.  The island, that at times I allow my shame to create is one of self-hate and that is an island I wish not to stay trapped on.  Oddly it is only when I embrace the shame, the water and ride those waves, that I find my path back to connection.

You may be thinking I am someone who is comfortable and at ease with my feelings.  No, not at all.  I have lived on many islands, and stayed safe in the stories firmly crafted in my mind.  However, much like Brene Brown talks about her wrestling with vulnerability, I wrestle with my feelings.  I fight for them. I have stayed stuck and isolated too long without allowing them.  Of course there are those I particularly wish to stay away from, fear, rage, helplessness and shame – and yet, when I have let those feelings wash through me, I have discovered new territory, new connections and much greater depth and empathy for everything around me.





Don’t Blame Shame!

I do not like it when I am flooded with shame.  Having said that, those are some of the most profound and valuable choice points I have ever had to face.


Shame is a feeling – not a mental activity.  It is that flood of heat that comes when I am exposed, standing naked in whatever it is I have done.  Maybe I got caught in a lie or said something mean that clearly upset someone.  Yes, I am someone who can tell a ‘white’ lie (see, already I want to spin lying into something less severe, not so bad).  Yes, I am someone who blurts out defensively when upset not fully aware of the impact it might have.  In that moment, when someone catches me or I catch myself, I feel shame.  The raw rush of energy that erupts when I am faced with myself.  That feeling is a wonderful opportunity to choose.  I can either try to cover it up by saying, I am not the type of person who would do that, or I can be vulnerable and own up to what I have done.  In the former, I step away from my vulnerability and hide in guilt or denial.

So for me shame is never the problem.  The problem lies in the choice.  Do I try to control myself and the outcome, or do I step into that moment of exposure?  I want to be fair to all of the various articles, books and literature about shame.  Actually, I love Brene Brown‘s work on vulnerability in Daring Greatly. However, I disagree with her definition, and what sounds like her dislike, and blame of shame. I have to admit, I feel a touch of shame just saying that, and I will still “step into the arena” as she encourages us all to do.

I don’t believe she is talking about a feeling at all when she talks of shame.  No, I think she is talking about the mental pathway that can so easily be engaged once I recognize that I am someone who can do ….. (whatever that horrible thing is).  That mental process is what I call “self-hate” or “shaming myself.” Now, that is one bad-ass challenge. Not to mention that we, as people in our efforts to look better, cover up, take control, have learned ways of ‘shaming others.’  Though again this has very little to do  with the feeling of shame, much more to do with mental pathways that allow us to take down someone else so we feel okay.

Too many feelings get bad raps. Anger is another that gets all sorts of bad press.  Mainly because people associate angry with violence – two very different things.  Anger, the feeling, much like shame – is simply energy in motion.  Anger can be an amazing opportunity to step into aliveness. Again, it offers a rich moment of choice. There are definitely things I am glad I get angry about, such as, sexual violence, people bullying other people, people hating someone simply because they are different – these are things that stir up anger in me.  Now, if I lash out myself, well that simply isn’t the noble choice.  (And honestly, I have done just that and felt some particularly painful shame about it.)  But I don’t want to lose my anger.  When I know it and embrace it, I can use my anger for good. I have energy that drives and motives choices in my life to stop violence, stop prejudice or whatever cause gets me angry.

It’s the same with shame.  No one wants to say – I am a liar.  But frankly, most of us are at some point – actually many times a day.  That moment when we own all of who we are, the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful – well, we become whole, alive, real, authentic.  It won’t last forever.  We are human, not simply divine.  We make make mistakes and shame is actually a wonderful reminder that we can self-correct.  Stay in the shame as a feeling (meaning only seconds of a flood of energy) and say, “I am someone who lied, blew up at colleague, cheated on a spelling test in 3rd grade.”  Yes, I am that person.  I feel hot and a touch embarrassed writing this out on my blog; however, I also believe that as I become okay feeling my moments of shame – I am less likely to ‘shame’ someone else.  I am also much more likely to realize that I make mistakes, and feeling guilty or beating myself up about those mistakes simply takes me out of the game, the present and opportunity to choice vulnerability and more on.

When I choose to be vulnerable and reveal who I am, I can, in that moment, do something different.  I can ask for help. I can cry or say I regret what happened.  I can be present and possibly shift the outcome because I’m not controlling, denying or hiding.

So next time you feel shame welling up – don’t run, don’t hide – don’t blame shame.  Step into that feeling and find out who you really are, and then choose what you do next!  It isn’t comfortable, but shame also isn’t the problem – it is just a feeling, energy and an opening for you.  Step in, own and be vulnerable! It is amazing what can happen after that!